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Eco-Friendly Guide to Moving House: Our Top Tips

eco friendly guide moving house

Moving house? Try this eco-friendly guide to moving house the sustainable way, full of tips for moving the green way.

What is the first thing that springs to mind if I was to mention moving house?  If you said stress then I’d have to virtually high-five you.  This is because the stress that moving house entails is normally the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about any potential house move.

In my adult life, I have personally moved house 17 times (17!) so I am well versed in house moving stresses.  Our last move was the most stressful move to date.  The house we were buying remained on the market right up until the point we got the keys.  What’s more, we didn’t receive the keys until 4:40 pm on moving day.  We ended up moving our stuff out as the buyer of our flat moved their stuff in!  Needless to say, I don’t plan on moving for quite some time!

Stress aside, is there anything else that springs to mind about moving house?  Your first or second thought might not be the environmental impact of moving house.  However, there are indeed a few eco-friendly factors to consider the next time you move house.

Guide to Moving House The Eco-Friendly Way

A living room full of moving boxes with a blue text box that says the eco-friendly guide to moving house.

Here are a few of my tried and trusted pointers to allow you to move house sustainably.  

Declutter Before Packing

If I was to give anyone any eco-friendly moving tips or advice, it is always declutter before you even start thinking about packing your stuff up.  Getting rid of stuff you don’t need means you need fewer boxes and fewer packaging materials.  It may also mean you need a smaller removals van, saving a whole lot of money and carbon emissions.

Separating the wheat from the chaff also makes packing and unpacking so much easier.  I’ve found when I take this approach that I rarely have that rogue unopened box of junk leftover that takes, ahem, a year or more to get round to opening and dealing with.

Decluttering expert Marie Kondo measures decluttering success by how many bin bags are filled and thrown out.  I take a different approach.  I have many gripes with Marie Kondo, which I could discuss at length.  However, in the interests of brevity and sticking to the point all I will say is that there’s so much wastefulness inherent in this type of approach.

Decluttering is not a case of throwing everything in the bin that you no longer need.  In the past (pre-Marie Kondo), I wrote at length about how to declutter sustainably.  Before you reach for a bin bag I’d recommend giving it a read.  I offer advice on what you can do with your unwanted goods to help keep them out of landfill and in active use for longer.  If you have worn out or broken items I also offer advice on where you can responsibly dispose of items at the end of their lifespan.

Cardboard Boxes

Once you’ve decluttered, you can move on to the packing stage.  Cardboard boxes are one environmental factor to consider when it comes to moving house in an eco-friendly way. 

Many removal companies supply their own brand new boxes and packaging materials at an additional cost to you.  You can also buy boxes and packaging online. Whilst you can easily recycle cardboard boxes after your move, I’ve always felt that it’s a bit of a waste of materials and resources to buy new cardboard just for the sake of moving stuff from one house to another.

To save resources (and a bit of cash) in the past I have always fostered a good relationship with my local shops.  Most shops won’t store cardboard boxes due to it being a fire risk.  However, what you can do is ask the staff when the delivery day is.  You can then pop in that day to collect some cardboard boxes before they are sent to recycling. 

After speaking to the manager of our local shop, I found out their delivery day was a Wednesday afternoon.  This meant every Wednesday evening for a few weeks I went along and collected as many boxes as I could carry.  This saved us from buying a ton of new cardboard and gave cardboard that was due for recycling a second life before being recycled.  Win-win!

Creative Packaging Options For Moving House

Alternatively, you can get crafty with the items you have around you – using suitcases instead of boxes. Ask your friends and family if you can borrow some of their suitcases for your house move.

Laundry bags are also an excellent alternative to boxes.  You can generally fit a lot in them and they are much easier to carry than boxes.  

Eco-Friendly Packaging Materials

Of course, you can’t move your goods with cardboard boxes alone.  Fragile items need some form of protection from knocks and bumps during the moving process. Whilst most packaging materials are plastic, there are eco-friendly options when it comes to moving house.

Whenever I have an upcoming move I ask as many friends as possible to keep their old newspapers for us.  This saves us from buying packaging paper.  I also make a point of saving any packaging paper or bubble wrap that comes into our house prior to the big move.  I also ask my work to save any bubble wrap that comes in on deliveries, so that it can at least be recycled.

If your work doesn’t get many deliveries, or if you don’t work, then another option to check out is Freecycle.  From what I’ve seen over my years of using Freecycle is that if an item is no longer needed but can be of use to someone then a Freecycler will list it on Freecycle.  I have seen some strange things pop up on Freecycle in my time.  Therefore, I can assure you that invariably someone will offer a load of bubble wrap or a big bundle of newspaper or packaging paper that they have amassed and need rid of. 

If Freecycle doesn’t offer the goods, then other places to try include Gumtree and Facebook marketplace.

If you would rather avoid plastic bubble wrap for moving house, then there are eco-friendly alternatives to bubble wrap abound.  From corrugated cardboard “bubble” wrap to packing peanuts made of corn starch that can be dissolved in water or placed in your composter. There are lots of clever options online if you are prepared to pay for them.

And of course, the other eco-friendly alternative is to use clean towels, clothes and linens to wrap breakables in. It’s a great space-saving technique too!

Plastic-Free Packaging Tape

In terms of tape to seal your boxes, something to try instead of conventional plastic packaging tape is eco paper packaging tape*.   This tape is made from 100% recycled paper, with a latex-based adhesive that is completely biodegradable.

Do you have any other eco-friendly moving tips?  Do let me know in the comments below!

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The Best Eco-Friendly Bin Bag Alternatives

So, today let’s talk eco-friendly bin bag alternatives. I know it sounds dry, but if you hang about to the end you might just find a twist in the tale…

Now, I know, I know, I appreciate bin bags are not the most glamorous of topics. It’s no plastic-free makeup or how to go plastic-free in the bathroom. However, it’s important to talk about all the little ways we use plastic in our homes. Particularly to see where plastic can be swapped for better alternatives. So let’s get down to bin bag business!

eco-friendly bin bag alternatives uk

Eco-Friendly Bin Bag Alternatives

Here are my top alternatives to bin bags for your waste destined for landfill:

1. Ditch the Bin Bag

By far the single most eco-friendly bin bag alternative is to go bag-less. Yup, completely cut out the need for a bin bag. If you can instead line the bottom of your kitchen bin with old newspaper. You can then simply tip the contents of your bin into your wheelie bin when the bin is full.

Many people worry about wet and slimy waste making a mess of your bin. However, if you are composting food waste, either in your garden or via your local council’s food waste collection, then you won’t have that problem. All the wet waste will be in your compost bin.

Voila! Cheap, cheerful and 100% sustainable!

2. There is No Other Alternative

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there are no other eco-friendly alternatives to bin bags other than the no-bag method. You can go compostable*. You can go recycled plastic*. There are degradable* options. You could even use a paper bag. However, the moment that the bag goes into landfill then its purpose is lost.

You see, as I explained in this post about biodegradable plastics, and if they are good for the environment, in order for biodegradation to occur three basic resources are required – heat, light, and oxygen.

If a biodegradable or compostable material, including paper and food, ends up in a landfill site it can take decades upon decades to decompose. All the while releasing the greenhouse gas methane. This is a really interesting/horrifying article if you’re keen to learn more. Just wait until you get to the bit about the 1967 order of guacamole…!.

In short, this happens because in landfill sites waste is essentially mummified, in a complete absence of light and oxygen.  If the food that has ended up in landfills stays pristine for 50 years or more, there really is little hope for biodegradable, compostable, or paper bin bags in landfill.

3. No, Really, There is No Other Alternative

By now, maybe you’re hoping that there is another eco-friendly bin bag alternative answer that some clever bod has come up with. Sadly, this isn’t the case. I think the whole eco-friendly bin bag question highlights the fact that we can’t simply shop our way to sustainability.

What we need aren’t eco-friendly bin bag alternatives but real change away from producing so much waste. Food composting facilities need to be available to everyone. We need to buy less stuff, and when we do need to buy products they need to be ones that don’t break so quickly or can be repaired easily and affordably. We need more repair cafes. And we need to switch from using disposable products to reusable products as and when we can.

This is easier said than done. So this needs to be combined with support from the Government by taxing the hell out of producers who produce goods in unrecyclable packaging. There needs to be a crackdown on those that produce products that aren’t designed to last. Particularly manufacturers that design using planned obsolescence. And there needs to be greater governmental support for the circular economy and zero waste.

In short, we don’t need to buy a better bin bag. What we do need is to re-think our attitude to waste and all collectively work together, with greater support from the Government, to keep as many things out of landfill as possible. What do you think?